Ex-VC seeks social media regulation to advertise peace-building

Group photograph of participants at the conference:

By Patience Omoha

Prof Sulyman Abdulkareem, the immediate past Vice-Chancellor, University of Ilorin, has called for the regulation of the social media to curb abuse by the youth and promote peace-building in the country.

Abdulkareem made the call in a keynote address at a conference organized by the Institute for Peace and Conflict Resolution (IPCR) in collaboration with the University of Ilorin in Abuja on Friday.

The theme of the two-day conference, which participants attracted from various walks of life is,”Youth, Social Media Media and Community Peacebuilding.

Speaking on the topic, “Social Media Use and its implications on Community Peacebuilding Among Nigerian Youths,” he said social media regulation was the best way to ensure that youths use it for peacebuilding.

Represented by Prof AL Azeez, Dean, Faculty of Mass Communication, University of Ilorin, Sulyman said the social media must be regulated if the youth’s recklessness in using social media continues unabated.

”How can we make youths to use social media positively to empower themselves while at the same time deploying it for peacebuilding? The best way is by controlling and regulating the social media space.

“The regulation and control of social media space on grounds of humanity, peace and security are ostensibly plausible as such justifications have been invoked in Pakistan, Malaysia and India.

“This is why many scholars of communication and peace have intensified their support and agitation for a legal framework for regulating our social media space through the social media bill.”

Abdulkareem stressed that for effective development of social media among Nigerian youths towards community peacebuilding efforts, the youth must consciously attempt to promote credible information on their platforms.

The former vice-chancellor said that the social platforms too should be used to facilitate virtual dialogues among community stakeholders towards achieving peace and security among the people.

According to him, the youth while using the social media should also be conflict sensitive, adding that this would prevent the use of stereotyping and profiling strategies in framing sensitive issues.

“The youth’s use and adoption of social media should be aimed at promoting peaceful coexistence among various ethnic groups. Through social media, Nigerian youths should build strong consensus on issues that affect their lives and wellbeing.

“No meaningful socioeconomic and human development can take place in a nation where its youths are preoccupied with sharing divisive and inciting rhetoric on social media,” the don said.

Abdulkareem noted that the social media had become a fertile ground or platform for “computational propaganda trolling and weaponisation of information as evidenced in the spread of disinformation and misinformation.”

He decried the preponderance of fake news and hate speech in the social media, which he said were capable of sustaining the culture of intolerance and promoting diversity instead of cohesion for national stability.

“It is a poison that divides society, blinds the mind, reinforces sentiments and can plunge society into unending conflicts that hinder development and create unstable society. It is indeed a threat to peace, unity and order of a nation,” he added.

Prof Eghosa Osaghae, Director-General, Nigerian Institute of International Affairs (NIIA), in his remark, called for the extension of invitation to the youths to attend conferences which border on their role in society.

According to him, there is the need to always talk directly to the youths themselves on issues that concern them at a conference like the one in question in order to succinctly drive home the message on the subject matter.

Osaghae noted that there was actually no clear cut or well defined age for one to be called a youth, adding that anyone at any age could call oneself a youth.

“One of the ways that we can push these kinds of conversations concretely forward would be to invite the youth to be part of the debate,” he said.

According to him, the Nigerian policy paper defines the youth as someone who is between the age of 15-30, which means he or she is under custody and not yet autonomous.

“I’ll however extend that definition to mean that the youth is a social category, so a youth is he or she that a youth says he or she is, notwithstanding their age.

“So if you have a consciousness of being young or old that’s who you are. There are people who are 49 but they already feel they’re old, so let it be with them, they’re old.

“There are people who are 25, and are all gray and feel they are old, so be it. So in terms of social construction, you are who you say you are, old or young,” Osaghae said.

Earlier in his address of welcome, the Director-General, IPCR, Dr Bakut Bakut, said that given the current concerns in Nigeria regarding the youth, media and peacebuilding, the conference’s theme was apt and timely.

Bakut recalled the #EndSARS protest which was organized by the Nigerian youth, saying it clearly demonstrated that the social media was a breeding ground for fake news, hate speech, misinformation and online incitement of unrest.

He said the youth could use social media as a tool for peacebuilding because they use it more frequently but are more likely to become victims of violence and be recruited by extremists.

“This is a significant issue because technology can either be a medium through which terrorists recruit young people or a means through which young men and women can help in building peace.

“Although young are crucial players in peacebuilding, they have been excluded from the process and are instead thinking of as manipulable tools for violent conflicts and social unrest.

“Hence, the need for this conference aimed at bringing together scholars, researchers and students along with media practitioners to discuss how to effectively engage and support youths in peacebuilding,” he said.

Bakut said “Preventing the conflict of tomorrow means changing the mindset of the youth today,” adding that the conference offered opportunities for fresh ideas to gain youths’ support for community peacebuilding initiatives and incorporating social media.

The News Agency of Nigeria (NAN) reports that no fewer than 100 participants and other resource persons presented papers on various sub-themes at the conference.(NAN)(www.nannews.ng) I


Edited by Mark Longyen/Isaac Aregbesola

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